Friday, July 14, 2017

Summer Climbs 2017: The Challenges of a Double Summit on K2 and Broad Peak

Over the past few years, we've seen an increase in commercial climbing in the Karakoram, most notably on K2, arguably the toughest most dangerous mountain in the world. Part of the strategy for many of the mountaineers who come to that part of the world is to first acclimatize on Broad Peak, make a summit attempt there, then jump over to K2 with an eye on quickly scaling that mountain too. But, this strategy has met with limited success, in part because of the unpredictable weather on K2, where the mountain can go several years without a single summit, thanks in no small part due to the high winds, heavy snow, and crazy conditions.

Alan Arnette has written an excellent blog post that takes a look at the history of mountaineers making double – and sometimes triple – summits in a single season. The article discusses what it takes to complete such a difficult undertaking, and then takes a look at both the Everest-Lhotse and K2-Broad Peak doubleheaders, with the latter being especially important as it is playing out at this very moment in the Karakoram.

So how realistic is it for a climber to summit both peaks within a few weeks of one another? According to Alan's article, it has only been done four times in the past, as compared to 84 successful summits of Gasherbrum I and II in the same season. What makes it so difficult? Arnette goes into detail on that topic too, listing the weather, the timing and schedule of the expedition, as well as the fitness and attitude of the alpinist attempting to pull off such a feat.

After reading the article, it is clear that we shouldn't expect too many of the climbers who summited Broad Peak a few days back to also pull of another summit of K2 in the days ahead. Some may actually be able to do it, but historically speaking it is a long shot.

Speaking of K2, progress is continuing on that mountain as teams prepare for the summit push ahead. A few days back we learned that Camp 4 had been established on the Abruzzi Route, and now we have an update from ńĆesen Route as well. That's where Himex has set up shop and has been slowly but surely working away as well. They have been able to build and supply Camp 3 at 7200 meters (23,600 ft), but as usual, the weather has not been an ally. The team has set a departure date from Base Camp for August 4, so there is still plenty of time on the schedule however.

For now, we wait and watch. The climbers are putting in the hard work, acclimatizing, and preparing, but it remains to be seen if the mountain will cooperate. We'll know soon enough.

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